Carroll, Paul Vincent
Carroll, Paul Vincent 1900–1968
An Irish dramatist and short story writer, Carroll once said of himself, "I write as Ibsen did. I take the life of a small village and enlarge it to encompass all human life." He developed what he termed "that unquenchable love of the drama" at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, where his first plays were produced. While teaching in Glasgow, Carroll discovered the writings of Jonathan Swift. Although profoundly influenced by Swift, Carroll never became as bitter in his satire or as bleak in his philosophy as his master. He also wrote movie scenarios and television scripts, and was a founding director of the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.; obituary, Vols. 25-28, rev. ed.)
Sister Ann Gertrude Coleman
It was Paul Vincent Carroll who gave to the stage several portrayals of the Catholic priest in plays which not only dramatize the position of the priest in Catholic Ireland's national life, but also question the relation of religion to the daily life of the people. Carroll, up to the present time, at least, has neither peer nor imitator in this kind of Irish play. The figure of the Catholic priest has appeared frequently in modern Irish prose fiction, but only occasionally and incidentally in plays. (p. 87)
Irish-born Paul Vincent Carroll … wrote several plays, as distinctive as those of any of his great predecessors in the Abbey Theater, in which he frequently dramatized the conflict between the liberal and the illiberal wings of Catholicism in Ireland, often showing a sensitive concern for the plight of the rebel against oppressive convention imposed from within or from without. In two of his best-known plays, Shadow and Substance and The White Steed, he sets a type of obtuse Irish priest in opposition to a type of intransigent liberal, and at the stupidities of everyone involved, whether cleric or layman, he hits very hard indeed.
In a youthful tragedy entitled Things That Are Caesar's, presented at the Abbey Theater in August, 1932, Carroll broods over the spiritual decay in the family life of an Irish Catholic home. The play is unrelieved by even a little hope; nor does any character in it...
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Paul A. Doyle
Unquestionably, Carroll suffered because he lacked the charisma of O'Casey or Behan, yet in any sensible estimate of modern Irish drama, Carroll must be rated the most important dramatic talent in the Irish theatre since the early writings of O'Casey. (p. 15)
[The title, Things That Are Caesar's,] epitomizes the basic thematic motifs found in most of Carroll's early writing: the conflict between God and Mammon, Church and State, and Flesh and Spirit. Carroll became intrigued by observing these particular forces at work in each individual and determined to ponder the divisions, torments, and tragedies that resulted from such opposing elements in the nature of man. (p. 20)
[Shadow and Substance is] presented in the Ibsen formula of a tightly constructed play with intensely probing character revelation. But Carroll's ability with dialogue is his own gift. The conversation is quick-paced, concise, sharp, and frequently ironic, satiric, and humorous. Several of the dialogue exchanges are as keen and as lively as any conversations conceived by a modern dramatists…. The drama critics, who enthusiastically applauded the play, used such comments as "passionate eloquence," "probing power," "spiritual beauty," and "tender and sensitive," but the play is also masterly for its adept use of satire and irony. It possesses an astringency that both bites and purifies.
Like O'Casey in his...
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The great strength of Shadow and Substance lay primarily in the juxtaposition of two beautifully drawn and brilliantly contrasted characters…. Based vaguely on Carroll's interpretation of the character of Jonathan Swift, [the character Cannon Skerritt] actually reflects those facets of Swift with which Carroll himself most identified—the intellectual pride, the arrogance, the austerity, the savage contempt for folly. But if Canon Skerritt represents a stern and cold facet of Paul Vincent Carroll himself, these qualities were superbly balanced in the play by the Canon's young serving-girl Brigid. In Brigid's mysticism, simplicity, warm humanity and spiritual humility, another and probably more significant side of Carroll's own character was evident. These opposed contrarities combined to create one of the most solidly built, bitingly caustic and deeply moving plays to emerge from the remarkable dramatic movement of modern Ireland.
There are, I think, two reasons for Carroll's inability to create other plays as thoroughly memorable as Shadow and Substance. Although The White Steed was nearly as fine, and although his jeu d'esprit The Devil Came from Dublin really only needs a final polishing and tightening, in most of his other plays he was unable to achieve quite the same excellent balance of his own clashing character traits. In most of his other work, he seemed either totally Swiftian or totally...
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MARY HAMILTON and DIANE ROMAN
During the ten year period preceding his dramatic debut [in 1930], Carroll wrote more than thirty stories. Apart from their somewhat nebulous literary value, these stories present valuable documentation of the writer's creative process, and of his early and deep concern for the indomitable spirit of the Irish. In the stories, as in the plays, there is no real thematic consistency, but the germ of his later method of handling theme, language and characterization is clearly visible. In "The Treasure of Gold" and "The Stranger's Kingdom" we find an ethereal mystical motif so evident in Shadow and Substance and The Old Foolishness. His portrayal of types such as the Irish rogue, the shrew, or the gossip in "Terrible Man, Barney" and "Ould Biddy—The Newsmonger" appear at a later date more finely drawn in Things That Are Caesar's and The Devil Came From Dublin. Many of the delicate, lilting descriptive passages apparent in all of the plays are scattered throughout the stories, but are particularly notable in "The Unreturning Footsteps" and "The Little Old Woman." In "The Loser" and "The Deeper Lesson" we see a dichotomy of character similar to that of Swift in Farewell to Greatness! (pp. 72-3)
Mary Hamilton and Diane Roman, "Paul Vincent Carroll's First Fiction," in The Journal of Irish Literature (copyright © 1972 by Proscenium Press), September, 1972, pp. 72-84....
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John D. Conway
It is often remarked that there exists among Irish dramatists a natural impulse toward social satire. Playwrights such as Sheridan, Goldsmith, Wilde, and Shaw often outraged the English theatre with their satiric wit. During the Dramatic Revival in Ireland the satiric impulse found convincing expression in Synge, the early O'Casey, and Lennox Robinson. Hence it comes as nothing of a surprise that Paul Vincent Carroll, a man who deeply admired Swift, should have found a natural Celtic impulse irresistible.
Although there is bitter religious and social satire in Carroll's earliest published plays, Things That Are Caesar's (1934), Shadow and Substance (1937), and The White Steed (1939), it was not until the appearance of The Wayward Saint (1955) and The Devil Came from Dublin (1958) that he published plays actually designated as satires. (p. 13)
[The Devil Came from Dublin] crackles with witty dialogue, bizarre happenings, and a joyous atmosphere. It is at once the happiest and maddest play Carroll ever wrote; and although the major characters do espouse differing positions, the play does not wind down into a verbal dialectic better suited to a debating society than a theatre. If Carroll does not have the reach and the wit of a George Bernard Shaw, neither does he have the excesses. The Devil Came from Dublin is an engaging satire of Irish mores charged with a frivolous...
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